Is the US getting serious about the trade in biometrics?
Two bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress to end what now is a free-for-all among police and intelligence agencies buying biometric data pertaining to Americans.
The Senate legislation, sponsored by Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Ron Wyden, takes direct aim at data brokers such as Clearview AI and Venntel who are collecting and selling information without the owners’ consent.
Wyden and Paul call out Clearview AI and Venntel by name in a media release promoting what they are calling the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act. The same legislation has been introduced by two Democrats in the House of Representatives; Zoe Lofgren from California and Jerry Nadler of New York.
Neither proposal addresses the collection or sales of biometric data between private entities.
A court order would be needed for government agencies to buy or otherwise accept biometric data such as face photos that the sponsors feel some companies gather “illicitly.”
They are referencing Clearview AI and its ilk, which scrape images indiscriminately from the internet, including from social media services. Facebook, Twitter and others expressly forbid this kind of behavior involving their subscribers’ accounts.
That rule would cover people in the United States and those outside the country.
But the bills go further.
Without a court order, data brokers like Venntel could not sell to the government location data collected from people’s smartphone service.
According to Wyden and Paul, it is illegal for app makers to sell the same data to the government today, but it is legal for them to sell it to brokers. Brokers, in turn, are allowed to sell the data to the government.
The legislation also would subject data infrastructure companies to the same privacy laws that regulate telecommunications firms, device makers and social media services.
Providers also would lose all civil immunity to comply with surveillance requests from the U.S. Attorney General’s office, except for when they are presented with a court order.